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The Sound Of 2022: The new artists reshaping rock music

As Kerrang! headbangs our way into another new year, it’s time to highlight the rising stars set to soundtrack the next 12 months…

The Sound Of 2022: The new artists reshaping rock music
Words:
Sam Law
ZAND photo:
Sophie Thompson
Pinkshift photo:
Leigh Ann Rogers
Magnolia Park photo:
Jessica Griffith

The future is now. Like clockwork, every year-end comes with the trumpeting of the red-hot young guns set to smash the next 365 days. As we stare into 2022, however, there’s something authentically different about the crop of musicians stepping up to make their mark on heavy music. Genre boundaries are crumbling, yes, with sounds like grime and grindcore, pop and powerviolence more comfortable bedfellows than at any other time in music history. So too are the invisible cultural walls that have too long kept people apart on the arbitrary grounds of race and religion, gender and sexuality.

Punk and metal are meant to celebrate the alternative, and, through a tidal wave of new outsiders, alternative music feels more unpredictable and exciting than it has in years. So, although not all of these artists are likely to be storming the charts or crashing festival main stages, you better believe that every one will be doing their part in driving heavy music into a brave new dawn…

Witch Fever

Manchester “doom-punks” Witch Fever are not the type to mince their words. ‘I want my sanity, see, and not your dick!’ raged vocalist Amy Walpole with ear-catching conviction all the way back on 2017’s Carpet Asphyxiation. While she’s marginally less vitriolic on the title-track from 2021’s Reincarnate EP, her declaration of ‘Wish I could misbehave / That's all I fucking crave!’ still stirs with the same striking feminist power. Combining the anger and energy of riot grrrl punk rock with the weight and menace of classic doom metal, they’ve got the music to match those uncompromising lyrics, earning themselves support slots with IDLES and Bob Vylan already. And, with their cauldron only beginning to bubble, bigger things are on the way. So watch out: something wicked this way comes.

ZAND

Flash back five years and ZAND was dropping folky synth-pop ditties under the whimsical moniker Seafoal. Safe to say, things have changed. Sonically, that’s seen the music released under their new name take on a far gnarlier industrial edge (compellingly branded “ugly pop”), while, aesthetically, they’ve steered towards a provocative bald-headed, neon-demon visual identity. It’s all in service of a broader binary-busting battle, though, putting SWERFS and TERFS in their place, embracing the challenges and liberations of living one’s own truth, and flipping derogatory comments on their head on tracks as cutting as Inappropriate and Bald Bitch. Music to goosebump the skin we live in.

Pinkshift

As self-anointed “Rat City rock nerds”, Baltimore trio Pinkshift are part of the new breed bringing scrappy energy and snappy self-awareness to the pop-punk revival. Last April’s knowingly titled Saccharine EP – particularly runaway hit single i’m gonna tell my therapist on you – showcased a band of college buddies combining their love of heavyweights like My Chemical Romance, Paramore and No Doubt with the grittier grunge and alt.rock of Soundgarden and Stone Temple Pilots. Now boasting the support of punk heroes like Anti-Flag's Chris #2 and songs as impassioned and addictive as Rainwalk, Toro and On Thin Ice, expect them to keep that bedroom vibe while becoming so much more.

Heriot

Are you one of those battle-scarred fans who wish Code Orange had never left I Am King’s nightmare hardcore soundscape for the more industrial feel of Forever and Underneath? Then look no further than Swindon brutalists Heriot. Originally started as a three-piece in the mid-2010s, the recent end of a years-long hiatus and the recruitment of guitarist/vocalist Debbie Gough has driven a rebirth and resurgence back to the front of the Brit-metal pack. As anyone who’s been paying attention to the slew of singles that’ve dropped, bombshell-like, over the past 13 months (Cleansed Existence, Recreant, Dispirit, Near Vision/Enter The Flesh) will know, it’s less a matter of ‘if’ than ‘when’ these guys are going to blast through onto heavy music’s biggest stages.

Drain

Although most of the modern American hardcore revival has been focused on the eastern half of the United States, Santa Cruz collective Drain are leading a full-throttle resurgence in the genre’s historic western heartland. With outfits as talented as Scowl, Sunami and Xibalba riding in their slipstream, it takes something special to continue to be regarded as scene kingpins, but their rejection of the widdly guitars and blasting death metal found elsewhere in favour of the bare bones old-school sound of heroes like Black Flag has seen them spearhead a geographically-specific sound. 2020’s banging debut LP California Cursed saw them head-up the bedlam of June 2021’s now-legendary Real Bay Shit mini-fest, but if August’s standalone single Watch You Burn is anything to go by, even more chaotic offerings are just over the horizon.

Kid Brunswick

Kid Brunswick thought he’d be dead before he turned 20. That the London solo star found straight-edge and continues to endure is a fact celebrated in his singular alt/punk/hip-hop sound. Although comparisons with the likes of KennyHoopla, YUNGBLUD and De’Wayne are almost inevitable as we spill messily into 2022, they fail to do justice to the darkness, complexity, and rough-edged construction of Harry James’ music. Linkin Park legend Mike Shinoda evidently thinks so, having been so impressed with 2020 single Bipolar Rhapsody that he ended up executive producing July 2021’s XFOREVER mixtape. Having backed that captivating collection up with his first-ever headline show at London’s The Courtyard on October 6 and November 12’s searing single Stained, Harry’s looking every bit like the Kid done good.

phem

It takes a special kind of something to be legitimately considered one of the strangest, most exhilarating alt.pop stars in California’s glittering City Of Angels. That phem has found their way to that reputation almost by accident should be taken as an indication of something very special indeed. Having transitioned from drummer to songwriter for others to finding the spotlight in her own right, there was a feeling of organic growth and deserved reward that culminated in March 2021’s how u stop hating urself (pt 1.5) mini-album and continued on through November’s silly putty single. Tapping further into a talent for ever-more inventive (and sexually-charged) songwriting with each fresh release, there’s a lot of love headed phem’s way.

nightlife

Even in 2021’s great game of genre-crossover roulette, it seemed unlikely that any artists would be insane/inspired enough to try to meld the sounds of disco, djent and soul. Even less so that they would manage to pull it off with the levels of slickness and intrigue managed by Baltimore “soulpunk” trio nightlife. Commanded by vocalist/producer Hansel Romero (who’s overseen recordings by the likes of Pinkshift and In The Mourning) and influenced by everyone from letlive. to Donna Summer and Stevie Wonder, songs like new low, lonely and all i know are primarily composed of smooth, soulful R&B flow – but, when the rock arrives, it hits all the harder for it.

Backxwash

Born and raised in Lusaka, Zambia before moving to British Columbia (via Belgium) aged 17, and coming out as transgender around the same time she dropped debut EP F.R.E.A.K.S. in 2018, Ashanti Mutinta (aka Backxwash) has undergone one of the most storied journeys imaginable to becoming a hypnotically dark light in the alt. underground. Now that she’s here, spreading her abrasive trap-metal gospel, there’s no time for slowing down. Winner of Canada’s 2020 all-genre Polaris Prize, debut album God Has Nothing To Do With This Leave Him Out Of It is one of the most striking, soul-churning heavy albums – in any genre – that we’ve heard in years. And it’s only scratching the surface…

Siiickbrain

K! readers might recognise Siiickbrain (the musical alter-ego of model and experimental artist Caroline Miner Smith) from Machine Gun Kelly’s I Think I’m OKAY music video, but her own output is far more edgy and intriguing. The child of a small, conservative farming town in North Carolina, she’s flourished since taking up residence in Los Angeles, churning out provocative, intriguing visual art and sonic collaborations with the likes of Skrillex (Too Bizarre) and Pussy Riot (POWER). She’s more than capable of musically holding her own, of course, with smashing single Silence and debut EP Ashtray For Your Agony proving powerful showcases for her suite of sensual croons and soul-shuddering shrieks.

Magnolia Park

Magnolia Park believe in musical affirmative action. Set up in 2019 with the specific aim of fusing genres and increasing diversity in alternative music, the BIPOC (black, indigenous, and other people of colour) six-piece from Orlando, Florida have certainly managed that, going as far as getting signed to legendary punk label Epitaph. All of which would be admirable but uninteresting if they didn’t have the bangers to back it up. Fortunately, October 2021’s Halloween Mixtape is an effortlessly captivating listen, bringing together alt., emo, hip-hop and hardcore with an effortless lightness-of touch on tracks like 10 For 10, Sick Of It All and the brilliant Back On My Bullshit. An easy, breezy walk in the park.

Vended

There’s no hyperbole when we describe Des Moines metallers Vended as to the manor born. Featuring Slipknot veterans Corey Taylor and Shawn ‘Clown’ Crahan’s sons Griffin and Simon on vocals and drums respectively, expectations will be understandably high – with plenty of detractors waiting to declare nepotism – but the quintet let the music do the talking in spectacular style. With November’s five-track debut EP What Is It//Kill It they’ve launched a startling introductory salvo, with Griffin every bit the vocal match of his old man, while the band around him execute a lean, mean metal assault, arguably as heavy as the ’Knot, but cleaner and more spartan in a way that feels refreshingly new. It’s already easy to imagine songs like Antibody and Asylum crumbling stadia a couple of decades down the line.

ZULU

Powerviolence isn’t a subgenre you immediately think of as one of the more listenable forms of truly heavy music, but that’s just one of the great and small prejudices Los Angeles collective ZULU are out to rewrite. Piling savage grooves – and leftfield samples lifted from distant corners of black American culture – into the otherwise punishing mix, the righteous politics of tracks like Straight From Da Tribe Of Tha Moon and Do Tha Right Thing (And Stop Frontin’) from September 2020’s My People… Hold On EP are more than matched by a propulsive punk flow and defiant positivist vibe. It’s hardly coincidental that America’s current hardcore renaissance has coincided with the nation’s BLM-led political awakening, but this band feels like a point where those movements intersect with truly incendiary results.

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